I posted a message below on Tweeters yesterday (January 20) thinking it a good way to share some photos and mini-stories from what turned into a BIG PHOTO YEAR in Washington. However when I pulled up the Picasa link I found that the comments did not show on the photos and they were an important part of the message. Some readers asked if I had thought of a blog and the truth is that I had but rejected it as too difficult for my miserable technical skills. Turns out it may be something even I can handle so I am trying it here including the photos but with the comments added. The intent then will be to repost to Tweeters and direct interested parties to the Blog.
(Per the Tweeters Post January 18, 2015) Although it did not start out that way, 2015 turned into a Big Photo Year for Washington Birds. I started out to observe 300 species in state and get photos of at least 97%. As more and more birds were seen, it morphed into a very fun but crazy year where I ended up with observations of 358 species and I got photos of all but 3. The missed photos were of Boreal Owl, Flammulated Owl and Common Poorwill. The latter was in my viewfinder but my settings were wrong in the dim light and no photo.
I enjoyed the input, guidance and company of many great birders in the state. Many thanks to all of them. My first photo of the year was of the White Tailed Kite that visited Steigerwald NWR. A photo of a Yellow Billed Loon on December 31 was photo 355 to end the year.
The photos selected for this blogpost were chosen as favorites or rarities or for “stories”. Some are pretty poor and others not so bad. I enjoyed taking them and they help me recall the experiences. I hope they can give you some enjoyment as well. I hasten to add that I hesitate posting any photos when so many great photographers include so many of their wonderful shots in various postings. I enjoy them all and envy the skill and artistry of the photographers and their work (you know who I am talking about Doug, Greg and many others…). I am at best an amateur trying to get better. These photos are personal for me and not intended to compete … just to share and maybe provide some value or pleasure. Enjoy.
What now follows are the selected pictures with comments/anecdotes that got lost in my earlier post, It was hard to limit this to 80 shots but many readers will probably think that too many and they are probably right. Most are in alphabetical order with some groupings by place but I am starting off with the first bird I took a photo of in 2015 – a White Tailed Kite – missed in Washington for a number of years. It was one of the first birds that fascinated me in California when I started birding in 1970 so it deserves to be at the head of the list this year.
Also it is fun for me to note that there are pictures of birds from the four corners of the state (and most places in the center as well). A Big Year requires a lot of travel – rain, wind, snow and of course gorgeous sunshine. Birds are included from Neah Bay (NW corner), Asotin County (SE Corner), Ilwaco (SW Corner) and Bunchgrass Meadows (Northeast Corner). We are fortunate to live in a beautiful state with diverse habitats and many wonderful birds … and birders. Posts by the birding community on Ebird, Tweeters, BirdYak and Inland NW Birders were of immeasurable help in learning of birds, sightings and their whereabouts. Thank you to all participants in those lists.
Again not a rare bird but I love this picture because it so clearly shows the posture and long wings that are my first clues that I am looking at a Baird’s. The scaly back helps as well.
Black Footed Albatross Westport Pelagic October 7, 2015
Hudsonian Godwit with Worm Semiahmoo Spit September 29, 2015
Maybe not quite as exciting as last year in the Eurasian Hobby et al frenzy, but still hard to beat Neah Bay for rarities and new species. The non-descript fellow a/k/a Blue Gray Gnatcacher is turning up regularly in Neah Bay now and this year I finally got to see two – one there and another in Clallam Bay – new state bird and state photo. Earlier that day we were fortunate to see the Hooded Warbler that had been seen at one of the Seawatch sites just east of town. Matt Bartels relocated the bird and Frank Caruso, Ann Marie Wood and I were able to get brief views and then finally it flew into the open on the grass for a couple of seconds giving me a chance to get this flight picture which I especially like because of the tail feather detail.
It pays to check Ebird and Tweeters and BirdYak. I was heading over to Yakima for birding there and later at Bethel Ridge when I saw a post that a Dickcissel had been seen at Hardy Canyon by Denny Granstrand. I arrived just shortly before dark and was alone in the Canyon and found the bird but in very poor light. I returned at dawn the next morning and again had the place to myself and again found this lovely visitor. On the way out I ran into Ryan Merrill who had traveled over to see this beauty.
I had seen presumably the same bird in the area last year but had views literally of its bill only as it did not move from behind an island for 90 minutes. This year the road in was closed necessitating a walk but about half way out I spied three white “dots” one smaller than the other two. Indeed it was the Snowy – a first Washington picture – from WAY far away. I had expected several more hours of effort hoping to find this bird. The relatively quick success enabled me to race off to Bateman Island – see below.
Later Frank Caruso and I joined Bill and Deb Essman in their high clearance jeep for a great trip up into Coleman Canyon where we found this species at its nest…their more usual habitat east of the Cascade Crest.
It was great to get all of our targets. (As an aside I often put together compendia like this using PowerPoint, a good way to show comparisons or to picture groups like Washington Warblers etc.)
Later there was a “probable” Slaty Backed Gull in Snohomish County – distant rooftop views only.
Stilt Sandpiper Eide Road August 7, 2015
Over the years Eide Road has been a great shorebird site. So sad that it will be destroyed as such. This Stilt Sandpiper was one of 5 I saw in Washington this year.
Not the best photo but definitely a wonderful and favorite bird. I had discovered a nesting pair along Umtanum Road and saw this bird on several occasions. Nice that others found it there too when given specifics.
. Brian Pendleton and I were treated to this “Close Encounter of the Grebe Kind”.
Yellow Throated Warbler Longview December 16, 2015
It took two trips to get this photo of a new Washington state bird (and a beauty). Car trouble prevented me from finding it on the first trip but the second trip was fun and successful joining numerous other birders chasing it from tree to tree at the end of the lake. It often came down on the ground and foraged there–other times acting like a Brown Creeper. With thanks to Russ Koppendreyer.
There are references and thank yous in some of the individual stories with the photos. I am sure I have forgotten some but to repeat them, thank you to:
Samantha Robinson, Jon Houghton, Frank Caruso, Ann Marie Wood, Brian Pendleton, Deb Essman, Doug Schurman, Shep Thorp, Fanter Lane, Mike and MerryLynn Denny, Grace and Ollie, Steve Pink, Russ Koppendreyer, Khanh Tran, Bill Brynteson, Paul Bannick, Hank and Karen Heiberg, Bruce Labar, Keith Carlson, Keith Brady, Melissa Hafting, Bob Boekelheide, Jordan Gunn, Tim Boyer, Charlie Desilets, Ken Hemberry, George Gerdts, Denny Granstrand, Mary Hrudkaj, Barb Deihl, Josh Adams, Joe Sweeney, Brad Waggoner, Paul Lehman, Barbara Carlson, Matt Bartels and John Puschock.